All Entries For parenting

7 Reasons Parents Should Feel GOOD--Not Guilty--about Exercising


Whether you're a parent who works full time, part time, or stays at home, working out can be a challenge.  Finding the time amid cooking, cleaning, laundry, homework, sports, lessons, and bill-paying; finding the energy when you're short on sleep; and finding someone to watch the kids so you can get to the gym or go for a jog is no small feat!  And then there's the guilt.  Maybe you feel guilty because working out means even more time away from your kids, so you choose to skip the gym.  Maybe they're with you all day but they cry when you drop them off at the gym child-care, so you opt to stay home instead.  Whatever the reason, if you're missing your workouts because you're feeling guilty, read on to shake off the guilt and get fit—because as it turns out, your workouts are actually good for your kids, too!
Posted 11/17/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 1 comments   5,577 views
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Why All Kids Need Recess


Do you remember elementary school recess?  Can you conjure up vivid images of your play time?

I think I jump-roped around the globe over the course of my elementary school  recess hours.  The traditional, two-people-hold-one-jump rope game was my forte.  I can even hear the song in my head: "Strawberry shortcake, cream on top, tell me the name of your sweetheart..."  The group then sang out a letter of the alphabet with each jump.  Hopefully, if the boy you "liked" started with an S or T or W, you would be able to jump long enough to land on the right letter. 

As children, we looked forward to running free during that period of time during the day.  No hall pass.  No permissions needed.  Little teacher interference.  Fresh air.  Pure and simple play.  That was the 1970s and 1980s for me.  Over the course of the past two decades, however, fewer children have been able to experience the freedoms of recess.   

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the decrease in recess for children has been increased academic expectations.  In a nutshell, in came academic standards and out went recess.  It made sense to many: If there are higher demands academically and more accountability of schools, teachers, and children, then recess (the perceived "perk") must go. 
The problem: Children need recess!   
Posted 2/27/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 37 comments   44,373 views
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5 Foods I Never Feed My Children


One of my biggest priorities as a mom is providing my kids with a healthy diet.  Sometimes I'm met with success (they love vegetables), but other times it's a little more difficult ("Eww!  What is this?!?"). I try to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods, so that eating this way becomes a normal part of the rest of their lives.  My kids are 6, 4 and 1, and even though I control most of what they eat at this age, I still shake my head at some of the food that's served when I'm not around.  My kindergartner can't go to a Girl Scout meeting, sporting event or even morning snack at school without adults serving her junk food.  So when I'm given the opportunity to bring something, I see it as a chance to show kids that healthy food can taste good.
 
Sometimes I get flak from other parents (including my own) because I don't let my kids order whatever they want at a restaurant or limit the foods I bring into our home.  I don't think I'm denying my children the joys of childhood by not serving them many common "kid foods."  If substituting vegetables for French fries or telling them they can't have the corndog on the menu is the worst thing I do as a mom, I think I'm on the right track.   
 
At the same time, I realize that putting some foods off-limits often makes them the "forbidden fruit," and they can become the food my kids want most.  Just like adults, completely denying yourself the foods you enjoy makes you more likely to binge on them later.  I don't want my child to go crazy at a friend's house because their mom serves chocolate milk and I only serve plain.  My kids get treats and snacks they like, but there are certain foods they will just never get from me.  Recently, I read an article about the top foods nutrition experts won't feed their kids, which inspired me to write this blog.  Wondering what foods are on the "off limits" list for this personal trainer's kids?
Posted 2/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 126 comments   43,868 views
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Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes: Help Your Children Embrace Theirs


How do you define family? 
This is the seemingly simple question that I ask college students in my adulthood and aging course when we begin to talk about family.  As they offer definitions, I jot down phrases on the board in the front of the room.  As we move along, students’ definitions become broader and more inclusive. 

In 2013, the reality is that there is not one model of "family."  In fact, there are not even two or three models of family to which we can turn in order to neatly and easily complete our list.  Children may be biological or adopted or fostered; raised by parents or grandparents; have no siblings or half siblings or step-siblings; have heterosexual or homosexual parents; have two parents who have remained married or up to four parents who represent blended families.

In fact, approximately 40% of children have divorced parents.  Two and a half million children experience the death of a parent before the age of 18.  About 1.8 million children in the U.S. are adopted.  The past four decades brought changing divorce and marriage rates, more women in the workforce, a longer life expectancy, more reproductive technologies, delayed marriage and childrearing, more alternative family patterns.  Frankly, there is no norm!

Posted 1/25/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 25 comments   12,582 views
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How to Ace the Parent-Teacher Conference


It was November 2010, my son's first grade parent-teacher conference.  I entered the room with my realist hat on and sat down in the tiny chair at the table with the teacher and my husband.  I was ready to hear positive feedback about my son's academic performance and likely some less than positive feedback about his silliness in the classroom (that was his pre-Kindergarten teacher's word for his very excitable-but-hard-to-bring-back-down personality).  I was prompt, aware, and ready to go.

What I was not prepared for was the teacher's opening line: "He is the impetus for all of the problems around him." 

She did not appreciate his silliness nor his desire to help (albeit, untimely) those around him during work time.  Ten seconds.  Eleven words.  Ten gallons of tears. 

Luckily, I have become a more seasoned parent-teacher participant.  Armed with more conference experience, anecdotal accounts from teachers, parents, and teacher educators, and published research on parent-teacher conferences, I can now offer some fresh perspective on the parent-teacher conference.  
Posted 11/28/2012  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 14 comments   10,263 views
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Healthy Flying Tips for Families


The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and many people will take to the sky to visit family and friends. Despite appearances—a plethora of fast foods, snacks and lots of sitting around—flights and airports offer plenty of nutritious food and opportunity for activity, if you know where to look.


  • Make sure everyone eats a healthy meal before you arrive. You’ll be less likely to munch on high-calorie snacks just because they’re around or you’re bored.


  • If eating in an airport, it’s worth it to spend the time seeking out healthy foods. Look for salads, fresh fruit, vegetable-based soups, and baked or grilled chicken.
    Posted 11/4/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 13 comments   11,863 views
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Healthy Pizza with Pizzazz!


Pizza can be a healthy choice, filled with complex carbohydrates, B-vitamins, calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin C. However it often ends up being an indulgent, high fat, calorie-packed nightmare. When you’re starting from scratch (or ordering by phone) these pointers will help keep your meal healthy, while still pleasing your family's taste buds.
Posted 10/21/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 20 comments   19,848 views
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Is Your Child's School Commute Safe?


Walking to school can be a great way for kids to get some exercise and socialize with friends out in the fresh air. It helps get their heads straight for the school day and allows them to decompress on the way home after long hours behind a desk.
 
But for parents, it's hard to know when a child is old enough to walk alone safely.
 
The school district in which I live only offers busing for students who live more than two miles from school. My soon-to-be kindergartener is very active--he plays tee ball and has run kids' races--but I'm not sure he'd be able to walk four miles daily. I'm also fairly certain I'm not willing to ask him to, considering the lack of sidewalks in our neighborhood and on the couple of larger roads he would have to cross to get to school. For us, age 5 is too young. But growing up in a very small town, I had friends who lived on the same street as our elementary school who, even as kindergarteners, made the short walk home alone every day along the tree-shaded sidewalks. Every situation is different.
 
Posted 10/17/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   7,721 views
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I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends


A couple of months ago, I wrote about popularity--and why it matters less than it once did. It sparked some interesting discussion worth following up on. The quality of friendships matters more than the quantity of friends, I wrote then. Today, let's talk about what matters most in choosing friends. And parents, listen up: This matters as much to you as it does your kids.

My dear friend and colleague, Dr. Catherine Bagwell, and I spent two years writing our book, Friendships in Childhood and Adolescence.  The overarching question we encountered: What is the significance of friendship? We learned it is one of those questions to which everyone immediately answers, "there is a lot of significance in friendship," but answering with substance takes more effort (as our editor pointed out).

So what is the significance in friendship? And how can you both choose good friends and be one yourself? That, my friends and readers, is what we're discussing today.
Posted 10/11/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   9,177 views
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Confession: Parenting is Hard (Even for the Experts)


Even though I consider myself to be a parenting expert, with multiple degrees on my wall and years of research under my belt, no textbook or research study could ever prepare me for my role as a parent.

A couple of weeks ago, my 8-year-old son had an outburst (that’s what I’ve termed it), which could be likened to a 3-year-old tantrum with a 13-year-old attitude.  I told him to go to his room.  He answered, ''I am not going to my room.''  I tried to calmly explain that there would be consequences for his behavior.  To this, he responded, ''I don’t care.''  I reminded him that his behavior was rude and inappropriate.  He replied, ''No, yours is.''  Through all of this, he went between being defiant and crying.  We covered a lot of ground.  As I went along, I searched my brain using terms like ''discipline,'' ''defiance,'' ''authoritative parenting.''  My searches eventually came back with ''no results found.''  I was at a complete loss.
Posted 10/10/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   7,854 views
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How to Squeeze in Exercise as a Busy Mom


Do you feel more like a chauffeur than a parent? We all know that exercise is important for us to stay healthy, but between cooking, cleaning up, budgeting, homework help, and—oh, yeah—sleep, who has the time?

Next time you feel too busy to exercise, try squeezing it in to your schedule with these tips.

During Drive Time
Try some isometric exercises: Squeeze your glutes, contract your abs, and work your calves by raising your legs up on your toes at red lights. Park far from your destination so you have to walk farther. Arrive early to your event, if possible, to allow time for a brisk walk.

At Programs, Practices, and Games
Walk around the facility before or after the event; look for chances to combine a class or activity with those of your children. For example, take aerobics while your daughter has basketball practice at the YMCA.
Posted 10/7/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 8 comments   13,532 views
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Backpack Safety 101


Do you know how much your child's backpack weighs?
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of your child's weight. So, if your kindergartener weighs 50 pounds, his backpack should be no more than 10 pounds when it's full.
 
Posted 10/3/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   6,868 views
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Helping Your Kids Cope with Back-to-School Exhaustion


Parents quickly learn this equation every school year: New ideas + new skills + new routines = a tired and cranky child.
 
My oldest son was so exhausted every day after his first week of preschool last month that I thought he had a virus. Then I saw a storm of tweets and Facebook posts from other parents in similar situations. There were stories about kindergarteners suddenly becoming holy terrors every day at school pick-up, teenagers eating the contents of the refrigerator and then passing out, and elementary students reverting to their toddler bedtime. I realized my son wasn't sick; he was learning.
 
His brain was working so hard on his new skills and routines that there was no extra room for anything else. It's the same reason babies experience sleep regressions when they're learning a new developmental skill, or why my 2-year-old is extra stubborn as he wraps his head around potty-training. Adults experience this, too. Have you ever managed to control your temper during a truly awful day at work, only to snap at your family once you got home? Now, imagine you're a 4-year-old learning how to follow classroom rules, or a 12-year-old encountering algebra for the first time. Or, worst of all, a 16-year-old facing the looming pressure of college requirements, as well as the daily gauntlet of high-school halls.
 
It's no wonder our kids come home exhausted and cranky.
 
So, how can we help them? Each child is different. Some might need a quick after-school snack to re-energize them for the evening. Others might need a nap or quiet time on their own. Here are five things to try to get your little learner on a more even keel.
Posted 9/25/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   9,857 views
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Your Kitchen: Built for Speed!


We’re all pressed for time. Kitchens often go unused because it can simply take too long to cook, and seems more like a hassle than a help when you're trying to feed a busy family. In this hurry-up world, a clean, organized kitchen will get more use than a cluttered mess that’s difficult to use. Creating an efficient workspace makes for healthier, faster and more enjoyable meal preparation for everyone involved.
Posted 9/23/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 24 comments   15,374 views
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7 Life Lessons My Kids Have Taught Me


I just sat down on a Matchbox car. My lunch today included peanut butter and jelly. The last movie I saw in the theater was something by Pixar.
 
My children have changed me in many ways. My life isn't always glamorous, but it certainly is better for having my boys in it. Here are the lessons I've learned and good habits I've picked up since having kids.
Posted 9/19/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 10 comments   8,819 views
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