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Health and wellness

Is childhood obesity more than a parenting issue?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 26, 2010 12:35 PM

Though the majority of weight-loss and anti-obesity initiatives emphasize exercise and healthy eating, a seminar last month at The Children's Museum in Boston made me wonder if childhood obesity is more than just a matter of too much junk food and TV time. Is it -- along with crime, education, and access to medical care -- a social justice issue as well?


Does having kids really make you unhappy?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 7, 2010 10:58 PM

Scores of studies over the years have shown that having kids doesn't make people happier. Ask any parent, though, and many will say that they adore their children, even when they're frustrated by them -- it's the parenting part that's a chore.

In the most recent edition of New York Magazine, Jennifer Senior explores these studies in a piece called "All Joy and No Fun" and makes several key points, including:

1. There's a difference between feeling happy and feeling rewarded.
2. In countries with strong support systems, like Scandinavia, parents feel happier.
3. The gulf between our familial fantasies and reality is huge.

All of which makes sense, but you know what? I think being able to consider personal happiness so carefully is a privilege afforded to those for whom the basic necessities -- food, clothing, shelter -- aren't an issue. And I also think that happiness is relative.


Do dads get short shrift at home?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 23, 2010 08:20 AM

A newly released Boston College study called "The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood Within a Career Context" points to a sea change in the workplace: Fathers may be facing a bias similar to that which working mothers know all too well.

But there's a twist: It seems that their wives are also discounting the work these dads do at home.


Are you using your kids to escape your marriage?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 14, 2010 05:22 AM

David Code.jpgIt runs counter to our instincts as parents, but a new book suggests that making your kids your top priority may be doing them more harm than good.

An Episcopal minister and family coach, David Code suggests that parents who focus first on maintaining a strong marriage end up having happier, better-adjusted children than those who make their kids their top priority.

"The truth is, we often find it easier to be with our kids than our partners," Code said in an interivew. "This seems child-friendly, but we don't realize we're using our kids as an escape from our spouses."


In memory of Henry: A fund to help kids battling with addiction

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 11, 2010 02:11 AM

I didn't know Henry Louis Granju, who died on May 31 at the age of 18, after a horrible beating over an illegal drug transaction. I don't know his family, though I've been a fan of his mother Katie's blog, Mama Pundit, for ages. I can't fathom what his parents and step parents are going through right now -- losing their oldest son after watching him fight for his life for five weeks in the hospital, trying to help their other children cope, just weeks away from the birth of their youngest daughter.

But there are thousands of people who experience the nightmare of losing a child -- young or old -- to drugs. In order to wring something positive out of this pain, Katie Granju and her family have established a fund to assist others who are struggling with the costs of helping their children overcome drug and alcohol addiction.


Dads can develop postpartum depression

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 3, 2010 10:24 AM

New fathers generally don't have a wealth of information to fall back on. Pregnancy books are usually aimed at women, obviously, though there are a few notable exceptions, like Christopher Healy's Pop Culture: The Sane Manís Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood and Dad's Pregnant, Too by Harlan Cohen. But dads-to-be and new fathers need help as much as moms do: A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10 percent of husbands experience depression sometime between their wives' first trimester and the end of the baby's first year, and 25.6 percent of new dads are depressed during the first 3 to 6 months of the baby's life -- in other words, 3 to 6 months postpartum.


Wakefield vows to continue vaccine-autism research

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 24, 2010 04:14 PM

Stripped today of his license to practice medicine, Dr. Andrew Wakefield -- whose 1998 study on the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine and autism led millions of parents to stop vaccinating their children -- insists that he will continue with his research into vaccines and autism. 

"My concern is for vaccine safety, for a safety-first vaccine policy," Dr. Wakefield told me in an interview today. "I have every intention of continuing to serve this population of children for as long as I can."


Parenting teenagers on the autism spectrum

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse May 5, 2010 12:01 PM

One of the hardest things about parenting older kids who are on the autism spectrum is recognizing that the issues they're dealing with as teens are very different from the ones they dealt with in elementary school. It's so much easier -- and more comfortable -- for us to think about birthday parties and playground friendships than it is to tackle the prom and dating, isn't it?

 "Suddenly, the question is not simply, 'How do I teach my child this or that?' but a much more complicated 'How do I teach my child not to need me to teach him anymore?'" writes Claire Scovell LaZebnik in Growing Up on the Spectrum: A Guide to Life, Love, and Learning for Teens and Young Adults with Autism and Asperger's.


Autism Awareness: Causes and controversey

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 28, 2010 12:36 PM

While the search continues for a cause -- and for a cure -- autism in general has become part of the mainstream. But while children's programs like PBS's Arthur are encouraging acceptance and understanding about autism spectrum disorders, controversey is what's making headlines in the news.

Last night, PBS broadcast its Frontline piece on "The Vaccine Wars," touching on the MMR vaccine-autism debate and the Thimerosal-autism debate, both of which are still ongoing in some communities in spite of the fact that the supposed links have been debunked. The show pitted anecdotal evidence from parents against research and advice from medical professionals, creating, as Dr. Jay Gordon put it in an open letter to one of Frontline's co-producers, "a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: 'Irresponsible moms against science' was an easy takeaway from the show."


Autism Awareness: There are more than just five senses

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse April 22, 2010 06:46 AM

Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, is not technically an autism spectrum disorder -- making it difficult to address on an IEP -- but many children with autism also have some symptoms of SPD, which is why I'm writing about it under the "Autism Awareness" heading.

One of the things we learn early on in school is that we all have five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. But as Hartley Steiner, author of This is Gabriel Making Sense of School, points out on her blog, Hartley's Life with 3 Boys, there are actually seven. In addition to the five we learn about as kids (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) there are two more -- vestibular and proprioceptive. And those are the ones that pose a particular problem for some kids who have SPD and are on the autism spectrum.


about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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