In the Parenthood
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Tweens

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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The Jessi Slaughter videos: Cyber bullying or parents in denial?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 23, 2010 06:19 AM

Last Friday, 11-year-old Jessica Leonhardt of Florida -- who goes by "Jessi Slaughter" and "Kerligirl13" online -- was taken into protective custody for a few days after being harassed when her profanity-laced YouTube video "to the haters" went viral.

"You know what? I don't give a f---. I'm happy with my life," she says in one of the video's tamer moments. "And if you can't realize that and stop hating, I'll pop a Glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy."

It goes on for four more minutes, during which she shows off her new lip piercing ("My mom made me take it out, 'cause I'm getting new ones"), talks about how perfect she is ("Nobody else can be this pretty with no makeup on!"), boasts about her boyfriends ("I have three. Jealousy, much?"), and urges "haters" to perform certain sexual acts and "gets AIDS and die."

The video went viral. Someone posted her real name, address, and phone number online. And then the pranks -- and, according to her parents, threats -- started pouring in.

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The stars of "Ramona and Beezus" on family, fun, and facing down fear

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 16, 2010 10:10 AM

Ramonabeezus.jpg"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!"

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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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Yelling at kids in public: Is it discipline or abuse?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse July 1, 2010 01:39 PM

What would you do if you saw an adult screaming at a child in a public place? Talk to the adult? Call the police? Walk away?

An In the Parenthood reader wrote to me about an incident she witnessed recently and wondered what, if anything, she could have done to help.

There are some large playing fields near our house that are part of a public school complex. They are often used on weekends by soccer clubs and various leagues, both for children and adults, and that is a wonderful thing. On a recent Saturday morning, though, my friend and I were walking near one of the fields and heard some very loud yelling and screaming. I first thought that perhaps an adult male softball team had had some kind of dust-up and that things would get settled quickly. As we walked close to the field, we could see that it was a man and three children, ages maybe 6 to 12, and he was yelling at them as they helped gather up the bases and balls and stuff from all over the field.
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Silly Bandz and the gimme gimmes

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 28, 2010 12:53 PM

sillybandz2.jpgSilly Bandz are the baseball cards of my kids' generation. They collect and trade them like they're going out of style. My 5-year-old likes to wear hers to school -- they reach half-way up her forearm -- where she and her friends compare and discuss them as seriously as I used to stickers and matchbox cars. At some schools they've become so popular -- and such a target for theft -- that they've been banned.
My friend Nataly's daughter has just gotten into the craze, and Nataly brings up a great point on her Work It, Mom! blog:

When it comes to requests that are heavily influenced by what her friends have at school, I find that I hesitate more than at other times. I want her to understand that just because others have something doesn?t mean that she has to have it -- silly bandz today, fancy jeans/cars/houses tomorrow. But I also don?t want to overdo it: Just because her friends have something shouldn?t mean that she can?t have it.

There's a fine line between giving your child what she wants and fostering an out-sized sense of entitlement. Are Silly Bandz a harmless trend, or a gateway to the gimme gimmes?

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Let down by a role model: Tips for talking to your child

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse June 23, 2010 08:44 PM

In the Parenthood is in the pages of Thursday's Boston Globe, with a story about kids and parents who are disillusioned about Disney star Miley Cyrus's transformation from goofy tween-age Hannah Montana to R-rated sexpot. (Click here to read the article online.)

We've discussed whether Miley Cyrus has gotten too sexy, too soon, and whether that's just par for the course in Hollywood. But what do you do when your young child's role model is growing up too quickly -- and you don't want your tween to do the same?

I chatted with child and teen development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman, whose book about body image, Good Girls Don't Get Fat, is due out in October; she offers the following tips for talking with your child about role models and the hypersexualization of young stars like Miley Cyrus:

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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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