Note to readers: As of Sept. 29, 2010, Boston.com/Moms will be syndicating content for In the Parenthood from my blog, Write. Edit. Repeat. You can find my older In the Parenthood and Child Caring posts (and comments!) here and here; more recent posts are archived at WriteEditRepeat.blogspot.com. Looking forward to continuing the great parenting discussions there! -- LMA
September 16th is National Stepfamily day, a great opportunity to honor your non-traditional family while acknowledging that parenting in general -- and stepparenting in particular -- is no easy gig.
With as many as 36 million stepmothers in the United States (when adult stepchildren are taken into account), some studies project that 40 percent of all women will be part of some type of blended family (married or not) at some point in their lives. If you're a step parent, it's unrealistic to pretend that your family is identical to a traditional family in every way. But you can still accept it as normal and celebrate what you have.
"Spending time with your stepfamily and fostering meaningful relationships is the best way to honor and celebrate it," says Dr. Rachelle Katz, "The Happy Stepmother" and founder of Steps for Stepmothers online forum. "Setting aside time for fun activities -- or even just mealtime -- with the whole stepfamily will give you the opportunity to celebrate your blended family."
Wednesday Martin, author of "Stepmonster," points out that even calling a stepfamily "blended" sets stepmoms, in particular, up for disappointment. "The metaphor of blending is a unrealistic expectation that makes normal stepfamilies feel like failures," she points out. "And it doesn't describe stepfamily experience accurately." (In an article in today's Globe, I've asked Martin, Katz, and author Joanne Pedro-Carroll what they think is the biggest mistake stepparents make -- and how to fix it. You can read my entire interviews with all three experts here.)READ MORE
At the end of the summer, almost everyone is facing some sort of transition. Parents have to adjust to juggling work and home and school-related responsibilities; kids may be worried about having homework for the first time (or, at least, for the first time since June). Whether your child is off to kindergarten or off to college, going to a new school or returning to the one she's always gone to, it's important to leave time to cope with the change that back-to-school time brings.
"You spend so much time getting your child ready for school, there's so much excitement, and you?re trying to help your child feel good about the transition," Amy Gold, director of curriculum and instruction at the Rashi School in Dedham and the mother of a second-grader, told me in an interview. "Parents forget what it means for them, that their child is going to school, some of them for the first time."READ MORE
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?READ MORE
When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to ride unfettered in the "way back" of the family station wagon. We rarely used seatbelts back in the '70s, let alone cushy car seats with five-point harnesses and cup holders.
We've come a long way since then, thank goodness, and today's parents are quick to make sure that their kids are strapped in before they even start the car.
But the best car seats out there still aren't secure if aren't being used properly and, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 75 percent of car seats being used today are installed incorrectly. To help answer questions and demonstrate proper installation techniques, AAA and the Dorel Juvenile Group are hosting a car seat safety check in the Target parking lot at the South Bay Plaza in Dorchester (7 Allstate Road) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 23 (yes, that's tomorrow). If you can't make it to the event, you can still benefit from some of the tips Kimberlee Mitchell, National Child Safety Expert and Child Passenger Safety Technician, gave me to share with you.READ MORE
Reluctant readers are not uncommon. For those who struggle with processing issues, or for those who haven't yet discovered a literary niche that suits them, reading can be a problem rather than a pleasure. For these kids, that summer reading list casts a long shadow.
Nancy Traversy, CEO of Barefoot Books in Concord, has dealt with reading issues with her own four children. She remembers when one of her daughters, now 18, was about 9 and a teacher told her that she was too old for the beautifully illustrated fairy tale book she enjoyed, and should be reading chapter books instead. "She actually hid my book under her bed because she was so embarrassed by it, and she was being forced to read something she didn't really like. She was getting put off reading."
Encouraging kids to read what they love can help foster an interest in reading in general. "If you force a child to read something they don't want to read, then I think that can have long term damage," she says. "Make sure your child loves whatever they read. You can get them to read anything and engage their imaginations."READ MORE
"Family" is a familiar refrain for actress and pop star Selena Gomez. What little downtime she has, she says, she likes to spend "sitting on the couch, watching movies, eating junk food, just relaxing with friends and family" or reading (current book: Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson. "I'm kind of a hopeless romantic when it comes to reading," she says).
When she's nervous or anxious, she turns to her mom for advice. She plays the serious and sweet older sister in her new movie, the supremely family-friendly Ramona and Beezus, (based on the classic novels by Beverly Cleary) which hits theaters on July 23. And she's not ready yet to turn away from the younger fans who still love her as Alex Russo on Disney's The Wizards of Waverley Place. "I'm still just a kid myself," she said in an interview yesterday. "I wouldn’t do a role I don’t feel comfortable doing or that my audience wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing."
Her co-star Joey King isn't worrying about reaching out to an older audience just yet, either. Her 11th birthday is at the end of this month, and she's reveling in the similarities between herself and her character, the pesky kid-sister Ramona. "I have a big imagination like Ramona, and the same personality like Ramona as well," she said over the phone. "And I have sisters, just like Ramona, and I have pets!"READ MORE
When I went back to work after my first baby was born, I felt guilty and excited at the same time. Guilty because I'd fallen in love with my baby and wanted to spend more time with her. Excited because I'd be able to have conversations with actual adults again, and be productive in a pre-parenthood way. And guilty, of course, about feeling excited about being back in the office.
Being able to leave the baby at home with my husband made me feel better (here's how we managed that and how I dealt with the second-shift stress), but if my company had offered to allow me to bring her in to the office with me for those first few months, I would have turned them down. It was hard enough trying to concentrate on work once I was back in the office, I can't imagine trying to multitask with an infant at the same time.READ MORE
"He took my toy!"
"She poked me!"
"He's in my seat!"
"Mom! She's BREATHING on me!"
Tattling starts early, and is most common with 5- to 10-year-olds -- for different reasons and with different consequences, of course. (By the time your kid is in high school, you might wish he would tattle more often.) While some kids are tattle because they're frustrated or bored, others may be honestly trying to solve a problem or report a dangerous situation.
Bullying complicates matters; in this digital day and age, it's not a cut-and-dried physical issue anymore. There's cyber-bullying and its devastating social and psychological consequences, mean girl scenarios, and even situations where the bully himself is also a victim. Many kids are unwilling to talk about bullying because they're worried that telling will make the abuse worse or, if they're not the victim, out of fear that the bully may turn on them instead -- which means that a blanket "no-tattling" policy would actually do more harm than good.
So how do you sift through the chatter and figure out whether the tattling is worth your time?READ MORE
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.READ MORE
One of the more difficult aspects about going back to work after having a baby is figuring out which childcare set-up will work for your family. Will you and your spouse work opposite shifts, so one of you is on kid-duty while the other is at the office? Find a small family daycare or go with a larger daycare center? Hire a babysitter or nanny?
And then there's the issue most parents don't want to discuss: What if you find yourself feeling jealous of your child care provider?READ MORE
about the author
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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