When should we defend our kids?

When they were young.

One sure sign of being a helicopter parent is to jump in without being asked to solve your kids’ problems. I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I know I should have let them fight their own battles.

Here are a few things I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it. I doubt he loses any sleep over it today. I know I don’t. Instead I want him to be happy and healthy.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion. I don’t regret fighting for her that time at all.

randk 11There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time. I should have known better though, and let them handle it.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me during her last year of school, during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She was a week from being done with that class and just wanted to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of college during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

Are you losing sleep over your adult kids?

When they were young and I worried about other things.

I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also. 

Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless.

We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living.IMG_1569-1

Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:

A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children.

Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true.

In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year.

The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress.

The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours.

The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way.

Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.

I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids.

Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?

My kids are learning how to adult and I worry more.

New study: more screen time leads to lower brain development

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My daughter.

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics is startling! Who knew that screen time more than an hour a day could disrupt a toddler’s brain development? Here’s a story from CNN written by Sandee LaMotte called MRIs show screen time linked to lower brain development in preschoolers with the new findings.

Here’s an excerpt:

(CNN)Screen time use by infants, toddlers and preschoolers has exploded over the last decade, concerning experts about the impact of television, tablets and smartphones on these critical years of rapid brain development.

Now a new study scanned the brains of children 3 to 5 years old and found those who used screens more than the recommended one hour a day without parental involvement had lower levels of development in the brain’s white matter — an area key to the development of language, literacy and cognitive skills.

Higher screen use was associated with less well-developed white matter tracts throughout the brain.

“This is the first study to document associations between higher screen use and lower measures of brain structure and skills in preschool-aged kids,” said lead author Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The study was published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“This is important because the brain is developing the most rapidly in the first five years,” Hutton said. “That’s when brains are very plastic and soaking up everything, forming these strong connections that last for life.”

 

There needs to be more studies to verify these alarming findings. But, we’ve known for years that too much TV isn’t good for our kids. It seems like common sense that staring at a smartphone or tablet would be just as bad as TV. Our kids need to be active, reading, and engaged with other people to stimulate their brains. Here’s an interesting quote from the story:

“These findings are fascinating but very, very preliminary,” pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky wrote in an email. Radesky, who was not involved in the study, is the lead author on the American Academy of Pediatrics 2016 guidelines on screen use by children and adolescents.

If it harms our kids’ brain when they are toddlers, do you think hours of screen time every day is harmful at any age? I find it hard to believe that once a child passes the magic age of five that it would be okay to let our kids stare at screens for hours on end. The article quotes a doctor who says to increase our kids brain power they need to read, juggle and learn an instrument. All of this at an early age may show positive results when they get older and are in school.

The article had some guidelines for parents and tips:

What parents can do

“It can feel overwhelming to think that our every parenting decision impacts our child’s brain development, but it’s important to also see this as an opportunity,” Radesky said.

“There are parent-child activities we know help children’s development: reading, singing, connecting emotionally, being creative, or even just taking a walk or dedicating some time in our busy days to laugh together,” she added.

The AAP has tools to calculate your child’s media time and then establish a family media plan. Basic guidelines are as follows:

Infants:

No baby under 18 months old should be exposed to screen media, other than video chatting with friends and family, the AAP says. Babies need to interact with caregivers and their environment, and not be placed in front of media as a babysitter.

Toddlers:

By the time a baby turns 2 years old, they can learn words from a person on a live video chat and some interactive touchscreens. The chief factor in facilitating a toddler’s ability to learn from baby videos and interactive touchscreens, studies show, is when parents watch with them and reteach the content.

Preschoolers:

Children from 3 to 5 years old can benefit from quality TV shows, such as “Sesame Street,” the AAP says. A well designed show can improve a child’s cognitive abilities, help teach words, and impact their social development.

It’s important for us to get off our own screens and be present with our friends and family — especially our kids while they are young. Kids learn from interacting with us.

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My son.

What do you find most alarming about this new study on brain development and screen use?

Is It Wrong to Take So Many Pictures of Our Kids?

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Waffles stopping for a smile and pic.

What will happen to children whose parents snap pictures of every moment of their lives? And post them on social media? There seems to be a whole lot of mugging going on and kids know how to pose from a wee age. Even my daughter’s pug is quite the poser.

My own kids are grown and flown and they are so thankful that Facebook and Instagram weren’t around to document every momentous occasion. We didn’t have cell phones with cameras during their early years, either. So, to get pictures, I had to lug around a real camera and drop film off at the neighborhood photo store. Of course, I tried to make up for lost time when I did join FB and had my iPhone with built-in camera. I’ve written about this subject here and here.

On a recent trip to visit my kids, we did a lot of sight-seeing in the Bay Area. We went to Sutro Baths, Lake Merritt, Berkeley Marina, Coit Tower and walked around many neighborhoods. I tried to get pics of my kids, and my son refused to cooperate. My daughter said, “Just get it done! One and done!” or something like that. But he kept refusing and said he wanted to enjoy the moment, not pose for pictures. Here’s the one pic I got of the four of us at Coit Tower:

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In an “Ask NYT Parenting” article called Is It Bad to Take So Many Pictures of My Kid? a mom from Bangkok asked this question:

I take photos and videos of my kid all the time. She loves seeing herself on the screen. Will this affect her sense of self and make her too image-conscious in the future?

Here’s part of the answer by Christina Caron, parenting writer for the New York Times:

Parents, like most people in the digital age, are relentless photographers. We’re rarely without a camera, so we document nearly every moment, accumulating thousands of images of our children.

But sometimes there’s a nagging worry, much like the one Ms. Kirati described: Should we be taking so many pictures? How should we use them? Will our children become more self-conscious or, worse yet, start to value a photograph over an experience?

According to developmental psychologists and other experts, taking thousands of pictures and videos of your children isn’t necessarily concerning. What matters is how parents go about recording or photographing their children and the context in which those images are shared.

With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind when documenting your child’s life.

Don’t obsess.

It’s natural for children to want to look at images of themselves, said Philippe Rochat, a professor of psychology at Emory University and director of the Emory Infant and Child Laboratory. “There’s nothing to worry about,” he said.

Yes, we all take a lot of pictures. And our children will take a lot of pictures, too, of themselves and others. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

“I think that we can slow down the trend, but it’s unstoppable,” Dr. Rochat said.

“My advice to parents is that you live with it,” he said — but don’t obsess over it. Do encourage your children to think about how and why we take pictures.

Instead of preventing children from taking selfies, for example, you can take selfies with them, Dr. Rochat said. As parents, you can use those moments to start a conversation about the kinds of photos your child is taking, the image your child is trying to self-manage and how that image can affect others.

When parents are the ones behind the lens, they also ought to reflect on what they’re projecting to the outside world and the impact their behavior has on others.

Constant documentation can translate as being “self-centered rather than kid-centered,” he said. “Parents need to be aware of that, of how much they promote themselves through their kid.”

Her answer addresses fostering a healthy self-image and respecting your child’s privacy. (If you want to read the rest of the article, click on this link.)

When my daughter went to college, she was no longer keen on me posting her pictures on Facebook. She told me more than once to not post anything of her — and if I did — only with her permission. She also told me not to accept any friend requests from her college friends, who were busy scouring FB accounts to find pics from the awkward tween years. Little did I know those photos would be used to tease my daughter online! That’s something to think about before posting any pics that we find adorable. Our kids have some rights on how their images are being used. That being said, I’ll post some really adorable pics of my kids at a couple months old and age three that will really embarrass them!

 What are your thoughts about taking tons of pictures of your kids? Do you think it has any lasting effect on their development?

Parenting Styles Can Affect Children’s DNA

threeI found an article called “Crappy parenting can damage your kid’s DNA: report” by Hannah Sparks  to be eye-opening. Parents today are scrambling for parenting advice from coaches, books, neighbors, friends and complete strangers online.  I don’t remember so much drama and concern over parenting styles and methods when I was young, or when I was a new mom. The big controversy back then was whether to put your child on a strict nap schedule or let them sleep whenever they were tired.

But here’s a new scary reason to think about your parenting skills. Not only have we learned that how we parent can lead to depression and anxiety in our children — now it’s been discovered that bad parenting can change our children’s DNA — and not in a good way. Here’s an excerpt:

Blame your parents for all your problems? Science supports that.

A new report by researchers at Loma Linda University suggests that aloof and unsupportive parenting damages their children’s health on a genetic level, potentially leading to disease and early death in adulthood.

“The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics,” says lead study author Dr. Raymond Knutsen, public health professor at Loma Linda University.

Telomeres are the protective tips at the ends of DNA strands that shield our chromosomes from damage and decay. When are DNA isn’t properly protected, our cells age quicker and we become more susceptible to illness and disease.

Of the 200 subjects tracked for this study, which will run in the July edition of Biological Psychology, researchers found that those who reported growing up with a “cold” mother had telomeres that were an average of 25 percent smaller than those with “warm” mothers.

“As early life stress increases, telomeres shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death,” says Knutsen.

I did a lot of things badly with my two kids. There are definite moments I’d love to forget or be given a “do over.” One thing that’s positive — I was not a “cold” mother, but was a “warm” mom. Thank goodness.

merobkatWhat are your thoughts about how parents can affect our kids’ DNA?

 

5 Tips for Parents of Graduating Seniors

Here’s a story I wrote a few months before I officially became an “empty nester.” Many of my friends are going through the transition from full-time parents with their kids graduating high school and starting the next phase of their lives. This story is for anyone facing the empty nest or having their oldest child graduating high school. Trust me, it gets better and you’ll learn to love some “me” time.

I’ve written about the top 10 things kids need to know before leaving for college. But, what about us? When our kids leave, it’s a drastic change in our lives.

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When we took our son, our oldest child, to University of California Santa Barbara, I was strong. I was emotional about moving him into the dorms, but I was excited for him, too. I loved college. They were some of the best years. I was excited for him to love it, too.

But, then we said our good-byes. It hit. Like a punch in the stomach. Then, the tears. Oh, my! I wasn’t expecting that. The drive home, my younger child, age 15, looked at me in horror. I was falling apart. Thank goodness for her riding in the car with me. I probably would have wailed like a complete idiot without her staring at me.

 

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My son on our friend’s sailboat during orientation weekend.

Now, I have a few months left before I face a totally empty nest. What did I learn the first time around to prepare me for this time?  I wish I knew some secret to make it easier.

During orientation, UCSB gave parents a few tips on how to parent your college kid. This is what I remember:

1. Give them space. Don’t hover, don’t call too often, never call before 10 a.m.

2. Set up a time to make calls on a weekly basis — and not more often than that.

3. Expect them to get homesick. It’s natural they will miss home-cooked meals, their own room, their friends, pets, and you!  Reassure them that this is normal. They tend to get homesick around six to eight weeks. It will get better. They’ll adjust. But, will you?

4. Be sure to send a few care packages. Their favorite cookies, toiletries, something to make them smile. Mid-terms and finals weeks are ideal times to mail care packages.

5. Take time for yourself! Write, paint, sew, take a yoga class. Do something every week for just you. Make a list of things you used to love doing, but through the child-raising and working years, haven’t found time to do. Make another list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. You’ll find your way.

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The quilt I made my son out of his swim tee shirts.

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

 

 

 

The Four Agreements

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

I was listening to a webinar on my morning walk and when I got home, I had to jot down a few notes. The talk was from one of my favorite sports parenting experts, David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. The topic was “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It had great information to help your kids manage negative self talk and to get them on the right path when they beat themselves up. Benzel said he got most of the information for this webinar from a book called Managing Thought by Mary Lore.

It also had a lot of great stuff for adults, too. Adults and children alike can get bogged down with negative thoughts about themselves. How often have you told yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or something else similar? If we can recognize that our brain is creating 55,000 thoughts per day and we can separate ourselves from them, they will lose their power. When a negative thought pops up, we can say “Where did that come from?” or “Is that useful for me to accomplish my goal?”

Benzel also said that negative thoughts spread like a disease and once you have one, more and more will pop up. Also, our thoughts are a choice. We can choose instead to rephrase a negative thought into a a positive one. If our child says “I don’t want to fail the math test,” instead they can say, “I will finish my homework and ask for help.”  Benzel made the point when we focus on what we don’t want, the more we focus on it, the more likely it will happen.

Now to the part where I was so impressed that I had to write it down: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you do these four things, you’ll be happier, more positive and your relationships with others will improve.

ONE

Be impeccable with your word.

TWO

Don’t take anything personally.

THREE

Make no assumptions.

FOUR

Always do your best.

Those seem so simple, but aren’t they valuable? For example, if someone says something you feel is hurtful, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s more of a reflection of what that person is going through. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s motives or intent. Instead we should investigate and ask questions. Try to learn where the person is coming from. As far as always doing your best, your best may change from day to day. Do the best you can on that particular day.

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Views from my morning walk.

What do you think of the “Four Agreements?”