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Articles for Parents

Check out these articles that cover a variety of parenting topics. From newborns to teens, we're here to give you guidance when you need it.

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    Parenting Teens

    “Raising kids through the adolescent years is like guiding your family in a raft through whitewater rapids,” says Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Running the Rapids: Guiding Teenagers through the Turbulent Waters of Adolescence.

    Like going down the river trying to navigate rapids, rocks and other hidden dangers, there is definite risk in experiencing the adolescent years. In fact, it can be potentially destructive for parents, teens and the entire family. Leman believes that how you choose to travel the river makes all the difference for you and your teen. Some people believe that the teen years are the most difficult, but Leman would argue they are the best years.

    “The teenage years are a wild ride, with good reason,” Leman says. “I encourage parents to talk with their kids before they become teenagers about some of the things that will happen or that they are likely to experience - including the idea that the day is coming when you are going to think your parents are really strange and don’t know anything.”

    According to Leman, the goal during adolescence is not for parents to be their teen’s best friend. It is to be a smart parent. There are three elements parents need to pay attention to as they guide their teen through adolescence:

    • Major on the majors. Not everything is worthy of concern and debate. During his teen years, Leman’s son came to the dinner table and announced he was getting an earring. His mother was frantic waiting for Leman to handle this situation. Leman did not say a word. Three days later, Leman showed up at the dinner table with an earring. Several minutes passed by before his son noticed. Kevin squinted and looked at his father with disgust and said, “You look ridiculous.” To which Leman responded, “Really? Your mother likes it.” End of discussion.

    • Learn to say positive things to your kids. Children are a gift. Make an effort to affirm your teen when he/she makes good choices.

    • Find something your adolescent can do well. Emphasize this strength and help your teen feel accepted and special.

    “My friend Stephen Covey tells people to start with the end in mind,” Leman says. “That is exactly what I encourage parents to do. What kind of young adult do you want to see emerge at the end of adolescence? The decisions you make and the decisions your teen makes during the adolescent years will make all the difference in the outcome. I know many parents who choose to put their teen in the raft without a guide, but I believe if you are interested in the best outcome for your teenager, you will put him/her in the raft with you as their guide.”

    As you navigate the whitewaters of adolescence, here are some additional thoughts on how to be a great raft guide for your teen:

    • Give your teenager freedom, but hold him/her accountable.

    • Sometimes parents are too quick to bail their teen out of trouble.

    • Are you raising your teen in a home or a hotel?

    • Mutual respect is the cornerstone of all relationships.

    • Everybody’s thoughts and feelings have value.

    • Watch your tone of voice. Rude behavior is not acceptable from anyone.

    • Use nonthreatening communication.

    • Laugh at everything you can and find reasons to have fun.

    “In spite of what you might hear from the culture at large, parents DO make a difference in the lives of their children. They watch every move you make and how you live your life. Recently, I received a note from my 32-year-old daughter that said, ‘Dad, thanks for teaching me that people are more important than things and living that out in your life. Love, Holly.’

    “Even if you are uncertain about your parenting skills, don’t be afraid to get in the raft and guide your teen through the rapids,” Leman says. “I have learned more from what I did wrong than all the things I did right.”

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    5 Parenting Tips for Media Use in Your Home

    At the beginning of middle school, Melanie Hempe’s oldest son, Adam, started trading his outdoor time for playing video games inside and she became a Game-Cop Mom. Since Adam was a straight-A student, Hempe let his bad habit slide. 

    “But his ninth grade school laptop proved to be too much to manage,” says Hempe, mom of four. “When he graduated from high school I thought he would outgrow his gaming. I did not realize that little kid hobbies become big kid hobbies.”

    At the end of his freshman year, Adam dropped out of college due to his gaming. On the trip home, he said, “Mom, ‘World of Warcraft’ did something to me. I’ve been in bed for the last week, depressed.” Knowing that she did not want to have a gamer in her house for the next five years, she asked an Army recruiter to visit. Adam joined the U.S. Army where he could learn to shoot real guns instead of virtual ones.

    Her son’s experience set Hempe on a quest to understand gaming and screen addictions.

    “As a nurse, I felt like there had to be a scientific explanation for what happened to my son,” Hempe recalls. “I learned that gaming addiction is the number one reason boys drop out of college their freshman year.” 

    Like gambling, this addiction can be hard to spot. “After a great deal of research, I decided to present my findings to parents at our school. I was shocked when over 100 parents showed up to that first meeting.” Families Managing Media was founded as an effort to help families prevent childhood screen addictions.

    Think about your child’s relationship with their screen:

    • Is it the only thing that puts them in a good mood?

    • Are they unhappy when you take it away?

    • Is their usage increasing over time?

    • Do they sneak around hiding screens?

    • Do you know what they are doing on their screens; do you have all their passwords?

    • Does their screen time interfere with family time and their in-person friendships?

    If you answered yes to most of these, your child may be headed for trouble.  

    Hempe believes parents need to know at least four things about brain development to help with screen management. 

    For starters, the prefrontal cortex (the reasoning center) is the last part of the brain to mature and it is impossible to accelerate this maturity. Even the most intelligent child can have issues managing time or paying attention. 

    “Because Adam was smart, I expected him to be able to control his screen use,” Hempe says. “I now understand that this is a task kids are unable to do. Children are not little adults.”

    Second, it’s helpful to know that your child’s brain development is based on the activities they are doing. Like dirt roads being paved, neuronal connections get stronger with use. The connections not being used get pruned away at puberty.  

    “Practice typically makes things better, but unfortunately, with things like social media, practice makes it worse,” Hempe shares. “The longer a child is exposed to one type of experience, the harder it is to reverse that effect.” 

    Video games and smartphones stimulate one area of the brain: the pleasure center.

    Unfortunately, if the whole brain is not stimulated early, it’s a complicated fix in adulthood.  

    Thirdly, screen time is not a neutral activity. Dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. When kids are on their screens, they get an instant dopamine rush from likes on social media, gaming, etc. The “dopamine feedback loop” is activated and a craving sets in. The bad news is that, school and other “less-exciting” things can’t compete with the novelty offered by screens 24/7.

    Fourth, screens replace many activities that are foundational to healthy brain development. Handwriting, real play and playing music are very important for a young brain. 

    “Movement is absent when your child is on a screen,” Hempe says. “Without enough movement, children have a hard time maintaining focus and dealing with distractions. Even 30 minutes a day makes a huge difference.” 

    Reading is the first activity to go when screens are present, and it is the number one predictor of academic success. Sleep is another critical piece. Screen habits make it hard for teens to get the required 9.25 hours of sleep each night.

    With this in mind, Hempe encourages parents to do the following:

    • Delay access to smartphones and video games. This allows more time for a child to mature so that he or she can use technology wisely. “No” for now doesn’t mean “no” forever. Social media and today’s video games are very addictive.

    • Follow your family’s accounts and co-view their screen activities. Nothing is private in the digital world, so your child/teen’s digital activity should not be private to you. Know exactly what they are doing on their screens.

    • Foster face-to-face social interactions. Social media is not designed for kids. Try a family social media account managed by you on a home laptop in plain view. They do not need six years of social media “training” to learn how to use it, but they do need face-to-face interactions with friends to learn critical social skills.

    • Spend more non-tech time together. Teens with strong family attachments show more overall happiness and success.

    • Help your kids choose and plan healthier forms of entertainment - they need your help. Don’t give the smartphone and video games all the power in your home.

    “Our teens need us now more than ever,” Hempe asserts. “It is easy to detach from them when they are on their screens. They want you to help them say no to screen overuse. After all, the only thing they really want more than their virtual world is more real time with you.”

    For more information on screen addiction, reclaiming your kids and reconnecting your family, visit Families Managing Media.

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    Sexting and Your Teen

    Dr. Sheri Madigan and her research team wanted to know the prevalence of sexting behavior (sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through technological means) among youth. Between 2006 and 2016, they conducted a meta-analysis, looking at 39 different studies about sexting that included 110,380 young people from all over the world, including the United States.

    Studies indicate that sexting has been on the rise among teens while teen sex has declined. Findings from the meta-analysis indicate that:

    • 1 in 7 teens send sexts, 
    • 1 in 4 receives sext messages, and 
    • 41 percent of teens are having sex according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
    • Additionally, older teens are sexting more often than younger teens.

    While boys are often portrayed as the requestors of nude images, studies show that girls and boys are equally as likely to participate in sexting. Plus, most of them use their smartphones versus a computer when they sext.

    Compared to boys, girls report feeling more pressure to sext and worry they will be judged harshly whether they sext or not. If they do, there is slut-shaming. If they don’t, they are considered a prude. Boys, however, may see sexting as a way to showcase their social status.  

    Many sexters assume the images will remain private, but the research indicates that:

    • 12.5 percent of teens are forwarding intimate photos without the sender’s consent. 
    • Another 8.4 percent of teens had one of their own sexts forwarded without their consent.

    According to the research team, these findings raise some concerns and challenges. Teens may feel that sexting is an expectation if everybody else is doing it. When sexting is coerced and images are used as a form of blackmail or a threat, the combination of digital insecurity and the teen brain processes could lead to compromised safety. Since teens’ brains are still developing, their capacity to critically analyze digital tools and apps may not be enough to keep them safe. So, what can parents do to help?

    If you're a parent, Madigan encourages you to talk with your teens about healthy dating relationships, peer pressure, digital security, sexuality and citizenship. Make it an ongoing conversation where you're being proactive instead of reactive.

    Also, discuss strategies for dealing with peer pressure surrounding sexting and the potential consequences of sending sexts. Once someone sends an image or video, there is no control over who sees it. 

    Family Zone offers these 10 tips to help you deal with sexting:

    • Have open and honest conversations with your children.
    • Don’t abstain from educating your own children about sex and sexualized behaviors. If you don’t educate them, somebody else will.
    • Do not assume that your child will not pass on a nude photo or take one of themselves and share it.
    • Discuss the risks of sexting, including how they would feel if their photos were shared.
    • Be very clear about the law and criminal consequences with your children.
    • Discuss their digital footprint and what that means.
    • Explain their digital citizenship responsibilities.
    • Warn your children to never share photos with people they don’t physically know offline. Consider providing examples of grooming and pedophilia.
    • Attempt to explore if these behaviors are part of a bigger problem with self-esteem and confidence. Like everyone, children like attention and reassurance, but as parents we need to help our kids find healthier ways to feel good about themselves.
    • Ensure they know who they can talk to and where they can get help if needed. They may not want that to be you, so ensure they have a safe person to confide in.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

    If you'd like additional resources to help guide these conversations, here are some good ones: Common Sense Media’s Sexting Handbook, Common Sense Media, Connect Safely, Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership.

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    The Reason Why Boys Are Struggling

    Activist, educator and author Dr. Warren Farrell is at it again with his just-released book co-authored by Dr. John Gray, The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We can Do About It. For many years, Farrell has been concerned for the welfare of boys, and he believes that fatherlessness is at the very heart of the issue.

    In an Institute for Family Studies interview, Farrell asserts that today’s boys often struggle with a sense of hopelessness and a lack of purpose linked in part to family breakdown and father deprivation. He also believes that boys’ and men’s weakness is their facade of strength. 

    A recent United Nations study found boys lagging behind girls in all the developed nations. The women’s movement has really helped young girls recognize that girls can take many paths and be successful. However, while girls’ sense of purpose has grown, boys’ sense of purpose has not. Boys seem to hear either that it’s all about earning money or being a loser. Farrell wonders what would happen if we told boys that being a full-time caregiver is a worthy option?

    After poring through the related research, Farrell believes the gap between dad-deprived boys and dad-enriched boys will become the single biggest predictor of those who become economically poor versus economically rich. 

    Boys with little to no father involvement often look to their dads as role models, but without much time with their dads, their role models are more “straw men” or “straw dads,” says Farrell. 

    “These boys don’t benefit from overnights, hang-out time, and the many hours it takes for boys to bond with their dads and trust that their feelings won’t be dismissed. Dads tend to build bonds with their sons by, for example, playing games and rough-housing, and then use the resulting bond as leverage for their sons to “get to bed on time” lest there be “no playing tomorrow night.” 

    This boundary enforcement teaches boys postponed gratification, whereas boys with minimal or no father involvement are more frequently addicted to immediate gratification.  Additionally, having minimal or no father involvement increases the chances of video game addiction, ADHD, bad grades, less empathy, less assertiveness, more aggression, fewer social skills, more alienation and loneliness, more obesity, rudderlessness, anger, drugs, drinking, delinquency, disobedience, depression and suicide. Fatherless boys are also more likely to be imprisoned. 

    In a TEdx Talk on “The Boy Crisis,” Farrell cites that since 1980 in California, 18 new prisons have been built, but only one new university. There has been a 700 percent increase in the prison population and it is mostly a dad-deprived male population. 

    As an example of the pain of fatherlessness, Farrell mentioned Anthony Sims, known as the Oakland Killer. His last Facebook post was this:  “I wish I had a father.”

    While many see guns as the problem, Farrell contends that school shootings are mostly white boys’ method of acting out their hopelessness. He says guns are also white boys’ method of committing suicide, and serve as a reflection of our inability to help constructively track boys to manhood. He points out that girls living in those same homes with the same family values and issues are not killing people at school.

    Farrell speaks of attending a party once where he learned that a men’s group formed by Farrell had impacted a man named John more than any other thing in his life. When group members asked the man, “What is the biggest hole in your heart?” he blurted out, “I was so involved in my career, I neglected my wife and my son. That’s the biggest hole and a deeper hole because I ended up divorced. I remarried and the group knew that my wife was pregnant with our son.” The group then asked, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you like to do?” He said he would take five years off and help raise his son. He talked with his wife, who told him to go for it. He shared that it had been two years.

    When Farrell asked John if it was a good decision, he replied, “No. The best decision of my life. Up until I took care of my son, my whole life was about me, me, me. Suddenly it was about my son. I suddenly learned to love and be loved.” 

    As they were wrapping up their conversation, someone asked for an autograph. Farrell thought it was for him, but it was for John. Farrell said, “I guess you’re famous. What’s your last name, John?" 

    “Lennon,” he said. John Lennon had discovered he was not giving love by earning money as a human doing, but by being love. 

    Many boys wander aimlessly, looking for their purpose. Farrell and many others believe one way to end the boy crisis is for fathers, uncles, grandfathers and other male role models to step up and stand in the gap, and for women to encourage men in their efforts to raise men of purpose.

    For more information on the importance of fathers, download our E-book "Why Being a dad is a BIG Deal" Download Here

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    How to Balance Marriage and Children

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    What You Can Do to End Human Trafficking

    An alert American Airlines ticket agent has been hailed a hero after preventing two teen girls from becoming part of a human trafficking scam. The girls showed up with one-way first-class tickets to New York City from California. They had no identification on them and the agent discovered the tickets were purchased with a fraudulent credit card. The suspicious ticket agent denied the girls’ tickets. While the teens walked over to a Starbucks table and made a call, the ticket agent alerted authorities.

    Authorities learned that a guy had invited the girls to New York City for the weekend so they could earn $2,000 performing in music videos and modeling. The teens had no idea their tickets were one-way.

    Who wouldn’t be excited about earning $2,000 in a weekend? Human traffickers often portray themselves as agents to connect young people to their dream career or to easy money. But that’s not the only way people end up being trafficked. Stories abound of people being preyed upon in stores, at truck stops and online.

    Research indicates that while human traffickers look for the most vulnerable at-risk youth, even young people who have loving, caring parents can fall victim to traffickers. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s website:

    • In the United States, on average, every two minutes, a child is bought or sold for sex.

    • The average age of a child sold for sex is 13 years old.

    • Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.

    “According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, 41 percent of those who are trafficked are trafficked by family members,” says Emily Aikins, director of survivor services at Second Life, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit in Tennessee. “Many people have this stereotype in their mind of the kind of person that is trafficked when in reality, victims of human trafficking come from literally all walks of life.”

    Todd Womack, Senator Bob Corker’s chief-of-staff, happened to hear a human trafficking-focused sermon delivered by International Justice Mission’s Gary Haugen at Passion City Church in Atlanta a few years ago. At the end of Haugen’s talk, he made a plea to attendees, saying the only way to end human trafficking is if everybody looks around and decides what they can do to shed light on this tragedy in their own sphere of influence. 

    Womack and Corker took that call to heart and began working with the END IT Movement and other nonprofit organizations to envision, develop and pass into law the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which is now operating as the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. 

    You may be wondering how you can help prevent young people from becoming human trafficking victims. Here are some ways anyone can help:

    • Get educated. Educate yourself and family members, especially your teens, and friends about the signs of human trafficking. The more educated you are, the more prepared you will be to stop it.

    • Be alert. Whether you are in a restaurant, airport, walking on the street, at a sporting event or getting a pedicure, you can help prevent children from becoming victims - just like the American Airlines agent. If something looks suspicious, alert authorities by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888. Tennessee’s own trafficking hotline is 855-558-6484.

    • Teach your children good internet safety skills. Know who is in your kids’ social network. Many predators connect with teens on social media and begin grooming them - then they do exactly as the person did with the two girls headed to New York City. They offer them something too good to be true, but even though they may know their parents wouldn’t approve, they aren’t quite discerning enough to realize they could be getting themselves into a dangerous situation.

    • Talk with your teens about healthy sexuality. Help them to know that sex is not a commodity to be bought and sold.

    No matter the size of your platform, everyone can do something. 

    Turner Matthews, who interned in Senator Corker’s office, learned of the END IT Movement two years ago. Upon returning to his school, he painted a huge rock on campus known as the “The Rock with a red X.” This year he not only painted “The Rock with a red X,” he also created an event around it to bring attention to human trafficking issues. He, like so many others, is using his personal sphere of influence to bring light to the problem.

    What will you do?

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    7 Life Hacks for Working Moms

    When it comes to being a mom and a businesswoman, things can get kind of crazy. Some days it feels nonstop as you move from changing diapers and cleaning up messes to taking conference calls and looking over balance sheets. 

    Plenty of moms have felt the angst of believing they don’t measure up as a mom or businesswoman. Jennifer Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway and current CEO and co-founder of Code 8, is no exception, and she definitely has some thoughts about it.

    “I think we all have to cut ourselves a little slack and realize that we probably aren’t going to have a perfect balance,” says Fleiss. “No one is perfect. We all have to figure out what works in our particular circumstance, which might mean shaving off a little bit on each end.”

    Fleiss confesses that she is her own toughest critic.

    “As a mom, I definitely feel the tug of guilt when I miss drop-offs, reading class books, cooking for bake sales, planning birthday parties and making lunches,” Fleiss says. “However, I think my husband and I have been able to work out a system that works well for our family.”

    When it came down to figuring out what worked, Fleiss understood the importance of having home, work and school nearby in order to save commute time. Additionally, both she and her husband intentionally try to only travel once a month, and syncing schedules helps them avoid being out of town at the same time.

    “I think one of the most powerful things that has come out of this is empowering my husband,” Fleiss asserts. “He bears a huge amount of the responsibilities in our home, which is what keeps me sane - and he is awesome at it. Our children (6, 3 and 1) have strong relationships with both of us, which I believe is a very good thing. And, I have learned not to go behind him and rearrange the dishwasher, or get bent out of shape when something is missing from the diaper bag. In the scheme of things those aren’t worth the time and energy.”

    Fleiss contends that in some strange way, being a businesswoman has made her a better mom. 

    “In the midst of the craziness, you learn not to sweat the small stuff,” Fleiss shares. “I don’t get as flustered as I used to, and I am more thoughtful when I respond to my family and others. I think I have learned to decipher between vitally important things that are a really big deal and those that are smaller deals which fall in the tyranny of the urgent category.”

    When it comes to her best mom hacks, Fleiss offers the following:

    • Wear ear plugs at night (so your husband hears the kids wake up first).

    • Dance parties count as workouts.

    • Going for a run with your husband equals date/catch-up time as a couple.

    • Getting things organized the night before makes mornings less chaotic.

    • Have hard-boiled eggs and bananas always at the ready.

    • Choose your battles.

    • Push-ups with kids on your back is a great workout, and it’s fun for the kids.

    “What I have learned about myself is that success isn’t just about business for me, it is about being able to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of my life,” Fleiss says.

    Fleiss learned from her own mother that balance is the key to enjoying both worlds. 

    “‘Why not do both?’ was something my mother often said to me, encouraging me to go after every opportunity and find a way to fit everything into my life to create fullness and composite happiness. She also constantly reminded me to slow down, smile and enjoy life.”

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    Tips for Creating a Family Safety Plan

    In a matter of days there has been a mass shooting at a Florida school, a drive-by shooting at a local eatery and bar, and a tragic accident resulting in a young mother’s death.

    Some say these events make them want to go somewhere and hide. Unfortunately, running away from it all is not an option for most people, but you can take steps to help keep your family members safe.

    We have all been taught to “stop, drop and roll” in the event of a fire, and for years we have taught children about stranger danger in an effort to avoid child abductions. Now, ready.gov says we should be ready to “run, hide and fight.” 

    Although the thought of having this discussion with your kids can make you sad, talking about it and sharing ways your children can protect themselves may help them feel more secure. Your discussion will certainly vary based on age, however. 

    For elementary-age children, the American School Counselor Association recommends the following: 

    • Try to keep routines as normal as possible. Children gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.

    • Limit a younger child’s exposure to television and the news. This is actually good for adults as well.

    • Be honest and share as much information as your child is developmentally able to handle. Listen to their fears and concerns. Reassure them that the world is a good place to be, but there are people who do bad things.

    For older tweens and teens, specifically talk with them about how to take action should they find themselves in danger. For example, if they see something, they should say something. Show them how to be aware of their environment and to notice anything that looks out of the ordinary.

    In addition to these things, you can make a family plan to ensure everyone anticipates what they would do if confronted with an active shooter or some other type of violent situation. Look for the two nearest exits anywhere you go - the mall, a movie theater or restaurant - and have an escape path in mind or identify places you could hide. 

    If you ever find yourself in an active shooter situation, getting away from the danger is the top priority. Leave your belongings behind and get away. Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow. Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be. Call 911 when you are safe, and describe the shooter, location and weapons if you can.

    If you can’t escape, hide. Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate. Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights. Don’t hide in groups - spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter. Try to communicate silently with police. Use text messaging or social media to tag your location, or put a sign in a window. Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all-clear. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

    As a last resort, fight. Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter. Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc. Throw items to distract and disarm the shooter, and be prepared to cause severe or fatal injury to the shooter. 

    Clearly, this sensitive and intense topic should be handled with the utmost care. You know your family and what is in their best interest. These are trying times for everyone, so make sure you take the time to listen to your children. Encourage them to ask questions and to share their thoughts and feelings. Watch for any changes in their behavior, too, because stress and anxiety can show themselves in different ways depending on the child.

    Our world has changed, and many are experiencing a level of fear and anxiety that has not been present before. Sticking our heads in the sand or being unprepared is not constructive, and although accidents happen and you can’t prepare for everything, the best offense may be a good defense. Just as “stop, drop and roll” has saved many lives, learning protective strategies to implement in the event of violence can also make an impact. 

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    Body Image and Your Kids

    Did you know that nearly half of girls ages 3 to 6 worry about being fat, and about one-third would change a physical attribute, such as their weight or hair color? That’s what Stacey Tantleff-Dunn found when she conducted a study at the University of Central Florida. 

    Girls and boys of all ages are bombarded with messages of how they should look and dress and what defines beauty. Based on these definitions, they begin a lifelong quest to be beautiful - often doing unhealthy things that could impact them for the rest of their lives.

    “Between movies, television shows and airbrushed photos in magazines showing women with ‘perfect bodies,’ impressionable young girls get the idea that it just isn’t acceptable to be anything but a size 6 or smaller,” says Pamela Kelle, licensed nutritionist and registered dietician. 

    “What many don’t realize is what they see on the screen isn’t real. Their body was never intended to be that size, yet they go on fad diets and do all kinds of obsessive workout routines to get themselves down to their dream weight. The only problem is, even when they get to the size they wanted to be there is still this small voice inside saying, ‘It’s not good enough.’”

    Just recently, CVS Health stated they would stop significant image touch-ups in its advertising for beauty products. The company said it has a responsibility to think about sending messages of unrealistic body images to girls and young women. From this point forward, they are committed to not “materially” altering photos used in stores, on websites and on social media by changing a model’s shape, size, skin or eye color or wrinkles. They will use a watermark to highlight materially unaltered images beginning this year.

    “There is a connection between unrealistic body images and bad health effects, especially in girls and young women,” says Helena Foulkes, president of the pharmacy division at CVS. 

    “At every turn, sometimes even in the home, teens are bombarded with negative messages about how they look,” Kelle says. "I strongly encourage parents to be aware of how they talk about food and weight. Many parents talk negatively about their own looks. Teen girls pick up on this and often internalize it. If mom doesn’t think she looks good, the daughter thinks she must not look good either. The goal for our kids should be overall health, not a certain weight.”

    You can protect your kids from the dangerous lies in the culture. If you want to teach your children about healthy body image, Kelle's tips can help you out:

    • Encourage and model healthy eating and exercise;

    • Provide healthy foods and nutritious meals consumed by the whole family;

    • Don’t talk negatively about your own body; and

    • Don’t expect perfection.

    All their lives, women hear things like, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” and “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Nonetheless, they are bombarded by messages that say looks are the most important thing. As parents, we have to be conscious about the messages we are sending to our kids - both girls and boys. 

    Imagine a museum visitor tumbling right into a valuable, centuries-old painting at a busy exhibition. It actually happened on a visit to a Leonardo da Vinci-themed show when a young boy was so intently focused on the piece of art that he stumbled. As he tried to steady himself, he tore a hole "the size of a fist" in a $1.5 million artwork. Do you think they threw the valuable piece of art in the dumpster? No. They recognized its value and began work to restore it to its original beauty. 

    It would be a really good thing if we could help our children see themselves for the valuable, irreplaceable masterpieces they are. We all come in different colors, shapes and sizes, and we are all distinctly different from anyone else. That’s not a bad thing, it’s actually a beautiful thing.  

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    How to Know What Your Kids Are Thinking

    When state police called science writer David Dobbs to say that his teenage son had been driving 113 mph, he somehow kept from yelling, “What in the heck were you thinking?” Probably just like any other parent, he considered his son’s actions to be reckless. His son, however, refused to take ownership of that title. He said he chose a long, empty, dry stretch of highway on a beautiful day to drive his car that fast. 

    After hearing many parents complain about not being able to get into their teen’s head to understand what makes them tick, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn and her co-author Lisa Rice took on that challenge. With input from more than 1200 teens, Feldhahn and Rice discovered some interesting insights into teens’ lives. The results of their work can be found in the book, For Parents Only, Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid.

    In general, the culture believes peer pressure pushes kids to rebel and behave in reckless ways without thinking of the consequences, teens don’t care what their parents think, they don’t want rules or discipline, parents don’t listen, and teens give in easily to negative attitudes. Feldhahn and Rice say those beliefs aren’t necessarily accurate, based on their findings.

    What’s really happening is this: Our teens are experiencing the intoxicating nature of freedom and the fear of losing that freedom, and they want to figure out who they are as an individual. When they test their parents’ authority, they really want them to stand firm instead of giving in. Teens want to know their parents are making an effort to understand them even when they make mistakes. They tend to stop talking because they think their parents are poor listeners, and what seems like an attitude problem might actually be a sign of insecurity.

    While the authors do not endorse bad behavior or make excuses for poor choices, they do believe that their newfound knowledge could help parent-child relationships.

    Although many parents believe they lose a lot of influence and that peers become more influential in the teen years, Feldhahn and Rice found that freedom is most influential. One psychotherapist said, “Freedom is like cocaine to a teenager. It’s intoxicating. It’s addictive. And it is often their biggest motivator.” Nearly 3 out of 4 teens surveyed said they were strongly motivated to pursue freedom. Many said they couldn’t get enough of it. However, even though they want their freedom, teens said they understood that too much, too soon wasn’t good for them. 

    When asked which they preferred, a parent who acted more like a friend or a parent who acted like a parent, 77 percent wanted the parent, not the friend. While teens may want their freedom, deep down they realize they need their parents to provide structure and security for them while they figure out the whole freedom thing. Additionally, knowing what freedoms are most important to your teen is essential.

    Rice recalls when one of her teenage daughters called to say she had been involved in a really small accident and that everything was okay. She said her mom didn’t need to come and that she was going on to her friend’s house. Of course, Rice headed to the scene. Her daughter had been on her cell phone while driving, which was against the rules. The first thought was to take away the cell phone as a consequence, but the cell phone was a big part of her daughter’s freedom. 

    After discussing what happened, the daughter asked to pay all of the repair costs instead of having her phone taken away. This meant turning over almost all of her paycheck for four months. As a result, she learned a very important lesson and did not resent her parents for taking her cell phone or grounding her.

    If you want to get inside your kid’s head, this insightful book offers very practical ways to engage your teen during their struggle to separate themselves from you as a parent, and ultimately become a productive, healthy adult.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    Keeping Your Sanity with the Kids When It’s Cold Outside

    There are plenty of parents doing the happy dance as they whisk their children back to school after the holidays. Moms or dads whose children stay with them all the time may be wringing their hands at this point though, trying to creatively keep their kids occupied and not begging to play games on electronic devices. 

    Depending on the age of your children, inside activities may be the order of the day when it’s cold outside. To help you stay sane and create some really fun memories, here are some ideas from other parents you might want to try.

    One mom presented her kids with a challenge. She gave them jello packets with sweetened, colored gelatin and let them add anything else they needed to make sparkly, fizzing explosions. They knew the jello powder wouldn't react explosively with anything, so they added baking soda and sparkles. They also knew that vinegar or lemon juice reacts with baking soda, making their concoction bubble to the top getting the eruption/explosion they wanted. As a result, they decided to mix all their dry ingredients together first and then add the vinegar or lemon juice for a better effect.

    Sometimes when it’s cold outside it’s fun to pretend it’s not. Crank up the heat a little, put on some shorts and let your kids make homemade no-churn Cookie Monster Ice Cream. Not sure how to do that? Here’s what you’ll need: 

    2 cups heavy cream

    14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

    1 tablespoon vanilla

    1/2 teaspoon blue food coloring

    20 Oreos or something similar, and 

    15 chocolate chip cookies. 

    Put 15 Oreos and 10 chocolate chip cookies in a plastic bag and break them into chunks. Set aside. Whip heavy cream, food coloring and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Beat in condensed milk until color is uniform. Add additional food coloring if needed. Fold in broken cookies and transfer to loaf pan. Break up all remaining cookies and use to decorate top of pan. Place in freezer for at least 5 hours and then enjoy! 

    Recreating recipes are great activities to practice counting, naming colors, measuring specific amounts and talking about the difference in the way we measure liquid and dry ingredients - all in the midst of doing something fun.

    Present your children with some random things you have around the house such as a box (shoebox, shipping box, shirt boxes, etc), unused paint stir sticks, newspaper, tape, popsicle sticks, paper plates, paper cups, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and whatever else you can find; then challenge them to create something.  

    Still need more ideas? Break out the playdough or board/card games. Build a fort inside the house or have a contest doing something fun like dancing, singing or cooking. Think of some things you enjoyed or wanted to do as a kid and recreate the experience for your kids. Ask other parents what they do or plan a craft you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t yet. You might even do a quick online search for fresh ideas or inside activities using items you already have in your home. 

    If you’ve ever seen a child spend hours playing with a box, you know just how creative they can be. Imagine what kids can do with just a little direction here and there. Some kids will jump right in to a new activity while others balk at leaving electronics behind. But chances are, whatever you plan for them will satisfy and stimulate them way more than staring at a screen ever will. Plus, they’ll remember it longer, too.

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    Dating as a Single Parent

    Morris lost the love of her life in 1991 when her husband, Steve, died of cancer.

    “It was a very difficult time,” says Morris. “I was grieving the loss of my husband in addition to taking care of three toddlers who didn’t really understand what happened to their daddy. One minute we were a happy family - and the next minute I found myself without my helpmate and a single parent - something I never dreamed I would be.”

    According to experts, many parents never plan to raise their children alone, but due to life circumstances they are doing just that. While they would like to find someone to fall in love with who would accept the “total package,” the thought of entering the dating scene again seems awkward and difficult to manage with children.

    “Although I was lonely, I felt like my first priority had to be my children,” Morris says. 

    “For the first year after my husband’s death, I tried to focus on what my children needed. Plus, I needed time to grieve and heal. I relied on family and close friends for support and encouragement. It wasn’t until almost a year had passed that I even considered the idea of another man in my life. I prayed that God would send me someone who would be interested in me and my boys, which was no small request!”

    Friends set Morris up on several blind dates, none of which were good matches. Shortly after that, Morris packed up her family and moved from Atlanta back to Chattanooga.

    “Right before we moved, I asked my oldest son, who was 5 at the time, what he wanted me to look for in a new daddy,” Morris shares. “Many of the things he wanted were on my list as well. The last two items on his list were that the man not have any other wife, and no children. I thought that was interesting coming from a 5-year-old.

    “During the time I was dating there were some pretty awkward moments that I can laugh about now. For example, my two other boys were so young, it was hard for them to understand anything more than I was looking for a new daddy. As we were moving into our new home, a neighborhood high school guy came by to welcome us. One of the boys greeted him at the door by asking, ‘Are you going to be my new daddy?’”

    Morris only went out with five men before she met the man who would become her husband and a father to her three boys. She decided early in the dating process that while she would protect her boys, she would allow her dates to meet them and vice versa. She also put together a list of questions to ask if she felt like the relationship was getting serious.

    “I was cautious about who I would go out with because I knew there would be many who could not handle the fact that marrying me meant becoming an instant father,” Morris says.

    If you're a single parent, experts encourage you not to rush into dating and to be thoughtful about how you handle the dating process. Here are a few things to consider:

    • Are you ready to date? Don’t let others pressure you into dating before you are ready. Make sure you have dealt with your grief and other issues that can potentially taint a dating relationship. Sometimes you need professional help to sort through your emotions.

    • Have you given thought to what you are looking for in a date? Dating can be complicated for a single parent. Just finding the time to date, not to mention childcare, can be a real challenge. Make sure the person is worth your time and energy.

    • Will you allow your date to meet your children or will you meet at a different place? Keep in mind that it may be hard on children forming attachments to people, only to have them leave.

    “I think being a single parent is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” Morris says. “It is a pretty vulnerable place to be. You really need good, solid friends who can be a support while you are going through this awkward dating thing. Solid relationships are key. When we have to go through very difficult times, it helps to have one person we can share the hard things with. Sometimes that is what can help us get through the best.”

    Morris met her current husband, Jay, in January of 1994. Their first date was in February. By June, Morris knew she had found her man. They married in October and a year and a half later, Jay Morris adopted the three boys.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "10 Tips for Blended Families". Download Here

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