In the Parenthood
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Toddlers

Avoiding the pitfalls of step parenthood

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse September 16, 2010 02:51 AM

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.)

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Easing back-to-school transitions -- for you and your child

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse August 26, 2010 04:08 PM

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."

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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?

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Car seat safety: Is your child using the right one?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 21, 2010 12:23 PM

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.

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New parents: Would you bring your baby to work with you?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 15, 2010 12:46 PM

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.

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Is it tattling, or is it something important?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 13, 2010 09:25 AM

"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?

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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.

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Jealous of the nanny?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 6, 2010 10:19 AM

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?

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Kids are washable, remember?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 25, 2010 11:19 AM

Photos of 4-year-old Suri Cruise with her feet adorned with self-applied magic-marker tattoos are drawing more than a few mommy drive-byes from commenters who are taking Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to task for being so lax with their little girl.

Relax, people. Kids are washable, remember? And what little kid hasn't scribbled on his or herself before?

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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.

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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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