12-Year-Olds Form Supportive Bond While Battling Cancer Together

The bond between these kids is helping them through the toughest of times. 
Stella Usiak and Lucas Lowe, both 12, met during their battles with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The two, who are currently patients at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, have been there for each other through their journeys and formed a special bond, WGRZ reported. 
“She’s had a crush on me for a while now, and I’ve had a crush on her, so her and me are boyfriend and girlfriend now,” Lucas told the outlet. 

The pair have small dates like eating lunch together or having quick chats. For Valentine’s Day, Lucas gave Stella a ring, and has even made a sweet video about how special Stella is to him. 
Stella’s mother, Jennifer Usiak, told The Huffington Post that the pair is elated to simply be around one another. Even emoji-filled texts from Lucas brighten Stella’s day. 
“It’s cute. If he sends a text and she’s not feeling good it puts a smile on her face,” Usiak said of Lucas’ impact on her daughter. “It’s like … they are an old couple who spent a lifetime together.”
According to WGRZ, the pair both went into remission at one point and relapsed later on. Both also received bone marrow transplants. Because of the couple’s experiences, the mom says it’s easy for them to relate to one another. 
Dr. Meghan Higman of the institute’s pediatric hematology and oncology program notes that it’s important for kids undergoing treatment for a life-threatening illness to have strong support systems like the one seen between the couple.  
“The relationship allows them to talk about and understand what’s happening and offer support to each other in ways that other kids can’t,” Higman told HuffPost. Later she added, “The only person who can truly understand what a kid with cancer is going through is another child with cancer.” 
Higman mentioned that by having a peer who’s going through a similar situation, a child is able to not only talk about treatment, but also discuss how the illness may affect other facets of life. The connection may also help improve mental health. 
“For kids who have to be in hospital or going back and forth to clinics for long periods of time, they miss out on going to school, school dances, on family events. … To have someone your own age who’s been through some of the things you’ve been through, it gives some normalcy,” she explained. “It helps decrease anxiety and helps them have someone else to … talk out their frustrations or concerns.”   — 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 Gift of Goodbye

Apparently I raised a veal.
And my calf is about to leave the crate.
Got to teach my son how to do laundry.
And how to cook.
He knows how to make PanOreos.
That’s an Oreo dipped in pancake batter.
But man can not live by PanOreos alone.
Speaking of alone.
We’re going to be empty nesters.
Hate that phrase.
How about Free birds?
The nest wasn’t that crowded anyway.
We only have one kid.
But there have been lots of kids.
In and out of the house and the refrigerator.
And plenty of kids around from my charity Mending Kids.
We’ve had kids from El Salvador to Ethiopia live with us.
Then there’s the dog, the cat and the turtle.
The pets will stay in the nest.
I recently asked my Mom what it was like when my sisters and I left.
She said…
Well, I had the cat.
My dog is going to be an emotional wreck.
Then there’s me…
We’re in the middle of prom and graduation.
All happy.
All making me teary.
I’m going to have to do something drastic.
Like go back to work.
Having said that…
Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I don’t say this flippantly.
It was.
My job was great.
I got to host a morning TV show in LA.
Then go about my day.
Never missed a field trip.
Even if I showed up in full makeup.
Moms were like…
Who’s the chick with the false eyelashes?
Then I got fired.
Now I call that…
The gift of goodbye.
I slept in.
Til 6:20 anyway.
Got to wake up my kid.
Make him breakfast.
And lunch.
Drive him to school.
Then he drove me.
Then he drove off without me.
I was there every morning of High School.
And every morning I’d say…
“Go save the world”.
This morning he said…
“Why do you say that?
You sound like a Disney movie.”
I said…
If this was a Disney movie I’d be dead.
They always kill the mother.
I’m not trying to be Disney Dorothy.
Or flippant
I want him to see he can do little things to make the world a little better.
I hope he will.
And I hope to do more of that when I’m a free bird.
That or move to Italy.
To write.
And drink wine and coffee all day.
I’ll find a way to feather the nest.
That f-ing empty nest.
I’m getting ready to give my son the gift of goodbye.
He’s ready.
We’re not.
We’ll miss that boy when he goes to college.
Miss the attitude.
The eye rolling.
Even the laundry…
But he’ll be a citizen of the world.
Hopefully making it a slightly better place.
Enjoy the veal. — 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

A Mother Lode of Mom Guilt

Last week, a friend called me from her tropical vacation. “I’m on the beach right now,” she said over the sound of waves, adding “I even slept until 9:00 today.” “Wow, I’m jealous,” I said. “I think I had mom guilt 20 times by 9 a.m.!” We both laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. I seriously had mom guilt at least 20 times by 9 a.m. It’s easy to feel bad about how you do things when you’re responsible for someone else’s life and well-being. So how did I get to 20 times by 9 am? Here’s how:

I woke up two minutes before my alarm to my kids fighting and yelling over who would wake me with a kiss, so I started my day by shouting “All of you get out.” And then I felt bad (#1). When my son requested an omelet with toast, I said “Sorry buddy, on school days it’s either poured or defrosted.” He settled for frozen waffles (with high fructose corn syrup: #2). Time is crunched on weekday mornings, but who denies their kid a fresh breakfast? (#3) Then another son complained about the outfit he approved the night before. I made him wear it anyway, and he cried. I surely made him doubt his ability to make his own decisions (#4) and then forced him to spend his day wearing something he hated (#5). Then I heated everyone’s frozen waffles in the microwave (the safer moms use the oven: #6) on plastic plates (BPA free, but I still heated plastic: #7). While preparing their lunches I noticed one child drop half of a waffle onto the floor. He picked it up and ate it. I should have stopped him and made a fresh one, but I didn’t. (#8). The kids started fighting over something dumb and I yelled at them to stop instead of calmly talking it through (#9), and when they kept fighting I made an empty threat (#10) and I let a little curse slip out (#11). With the few minutes I had for some coffee, I wanted a little silence so I turned on “Sponge Bob” instead of encouraging them to play (#12). I started getting peppered with silly questions about why straws don’t bend and if Grandpa’s boo-boo still hurt. I told them to stop asking me questions (I’m so mean: #13) and one son responded that I just don’t care about Grandpa (#14).

When it was time to leave for school, I told them all to find their jackets. My daughter couldn’t find hers so I asked if she brought it home from her friend’s house. She said she couldn’t remember, so I chided her for being irresponsible. Then I remembered I put it in the wash (#15).

We piled into the minivan and I noticed how messy it was. How embarrassing for my kids that I carpool their friends in this thing. (#16). On the way to school I asked them what they wanted for dinner so I’d know what to buy at the store. Then I felt bad that their day had just started and already I fast-forwarded to the end (#17). I gave them some options and they chose ridiculous things that were not on the list of options. So I yelled again (#18). We finally all settled on chicken nuggets and pasta (such a cop out: #19). As we idled on the carpool line, I noticed other parents lovingly walking their kids to the school door. But I chose carpool (#20) since technically my clothes were pajamas.

So that’s how I got to 20. But I think I’ve figured out a solution to so the problem, a way for me to avoid feeling guilty all morning. I just have to start sleeping past 9. — 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

Going big with art by Elizabeth Licata

Deborah Butterfield
On a recent visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens, I was almost as impressed by the thoughtful sculpture installations throughout the grounds as I was by the plantings (which are lovely). The DBG has a distinguished partner in this art project: Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center has placed modern and contemporary works by Judith Shea, Henry Moore, Deborah Butterfield, George Segal, and others throughout the gardens. They are on view through October 2.
Judith Shea
Anyone familiar with twentieth century art will immediately recognize many of these works—or at least the artists who must have made them. I only had about an hour to explore, so missed some of the biggies, like the Henry Moore; I think I saw about half of them. The works are in perfect balance with their surroundings; they don’t clash, but they don’t blend in either. Everything maintains its autonomy.
Dale Chihuly (natch)
I’d be very surprised if anybody reading this could afford to have a Henry Moore in his or her garden. It’s a high bar. But the installation reinforced thoughts I’ve long had about objects in the garden and why I have no many issues with “garden décor.”
It’s hard for a mass-produced piece of resin to stand up to a gorgeous stand of peonies or a magnificent viburnum. They’ll be outclassed. It’s easier to make an impact with high-quality hardscaping and beautiful ceramic pots.
On the other hand, there are usually interesting local artists who make objects that can stand up to the elements. A great one-of-a-kind bronze piece is worth a dozen bits of resin. I also love rusting steel—it seems to go great with plants, somehow. Susan’s hand-dyed prayer flags are beyond my capabilities, but they, too, hold their own as autonomous garden art.
If you can, check out the Denver installation.
Going big with art originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 26, 2016.

Source: GardenRant

Much Needed Tips For Raising An Infant

Because raising children is a very complex and demanding task, it is important that you learn a variety of child-rearing skills and techniques. The more you know about children and child-rearing techniques, including milestones in children’s lives and certain types of behavior, you will become a much better parent.

Clear some room on a counter near the sink, have your child lay down, and then run the faucet over his hair and skin. Many toddlers fear having their hair rinsed by dunking their head underwater, so this method should take away some of that anxiety.

It is common for preschoolers to resist transitioning. Abrupt changes can lead to stress and crying fits.

No two children are the same. Just because one bringing up a child style is effective with a child does not mean it will be as effective with another. Every child responds differently to punishments, as well as rewards for good behavior. It is important to remember what you have, and have not, tried in the past.

Creating family rules using clear and positive words can reduce fighting and encourage cooperation. Instead of saying “Don’t hit your brother,” say, “Touch other people gently.”

To best care for your children, you should care for yourself too. No matter what kind of crazy day you are having with the kids, take a few moments for personal time where you can relax and re-energize. This will make you less stressed and happier, which will benefit your children ultimately.

Maintain variety in your toddler’s toys. Shift to toys that haven’t been played with in a while to prevent boredom, and use all the toys to his or her full potential. Your toddler probably won’t even notice their toys are missing, unless of course it is their favorite one! Rotating toys keeps the toys new and interesting for your toddler, and prevents you from having to always buy them new ones.

Kids want to appear independent, so letting them do tasks while you clean can help boost their confidence. If you are washing the dishes, ask your child to dry them for you. Another good way to help your children gain their independence is to have them sort socks while you fold the remaining laundry. These mini-chores will help your child learn independent living skills and help you at the same time.

When traveling with small children, it will be easier to get through the security process if you use the line designated specifically for families. Many airports have lanes specifically for families. This will allow you to take your time. Also, you avoid incurring the wrath of other impatient travelers. Everyone must remove their shoes and all items must go on the belt for x-ray examination.

You want your child to explore his or her interests and develop skills. This can happen through playing on a sports team or taking an art or music class after school. This will encourage the child to be more social and to make friends, which they will most likely take with them into adulthood. If your child is busy participating in after-school activities they will be less likely to engage in negative activities.

Try positive reinforcement if you are having difficulties with your children. Just remember that certain children may have emotional problems and cannot communicate their thoughts and feelings. The most effective way to help such children is to demonstrate proper behavior and praise them for repeating it.

Hopefully this article has helped you get a better idea of what your role as a parent is about. Of course, there are no rules written down in stone about parenting, so use your own judgment as well. Do the best you can.

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]
Related Stories:
At 15, She Desegregated An All-White School. At 73, She’s Fighting To Do It Again.
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.
Source: huffingtonpost families

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.
Source: huffingtonpost families

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.
Source: huffingtonpost families

'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.
Source: huffingtonpost families

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